Pets are undoubtedly an important part of the family. As a friend who's there when you're having a bad day, you can rely on your pet to be there. Our relationships with pets are some of the most powerful in our lives. They aren't simply just a cat or dog. They are family members who provide significant emotional support, give unwavering companionship and teach us lessons about love, responsibility and kindness. The support from pets is so profound, that being a support animal is recognised as a job.
The length of intense grief experienced by bereaved pet owners varies. With 25% taking between three months to a year, 50% between one year and 19 months and 25% between two and six years. While these are only statistics, everyone grieves and processes the loss of their pet at different rates. At Patch and Purr, we understand that coping with the loss of a loved one like a pet is never easy. If you’ve recently lost your furry friend, know the tips we suggest today can help you healthily process the grief you’re feeling.
Just like a cut, emotional wound healing takes time. And arguably sometimes longer when we lose a loved one. Losing a pet not only wounds us but can leave a scar for some time following the passing. The nature of grief is that it cannot be hurried. It's best to accept it, feel it and process it at your body's natural rate. As difficult as it is, it's best to not ignore your feelings or try to suppress them. If at all, it makes the healing process longer when you avoid confronting your feelings head-on. During this time you can honour your pets life by reminiscing on the fond memories you have together, taking care of yourself and allowing yourself patience.
Remember, the grief of losing a pet may also come in waves, and hearing a friend just got a new puppy can also trigger the memories of your loss. Let others know what you have going on in your life, so changes in behaviour are understandable. With open communication, your friends are able to be considerate and provide a shoulder to lean on.
Many of us hope our pets will pass quietly in their sleep, but it may not happen that way. As a responsible owner, you may need to face the possibility of euthanasia. In this case, many pet owners report feeling guilty after making the decision. If you’re struggling with these feelings, remind yourself that the decision of euthanasia is made out of compassion, and prevents our pets from pain and suffering.
One way of processing your grief and paying tribute to your pet could be giving care and attention to other pets in need. Either at a shelter or if you’re ready, by fostering. With over 112 thousand animals taken in by RSPCA Australia between 2019-2020, shelters are always requiring an extra pair of hands on deck. If you’re wondering what volunteering at a shelter could entail, this could consist of dog walking, cuddling, crate cleanings and even administrative work.
When you volunteer, you get the sense you’re a part of something bigger. Your help won’t go unnoticed and you’ll know that as a volunteer, you’re working with animals so they can become adoptable in the future. You’ll also see how far your love and care goes towards helping those animals.
Every time you interact with the animal, you are teaching it trust and valuable socialisation skills. Over time, their personality will shine, and there’s no better reward than knowing you’ve helped an animal come out of its shell.
A part of taking time to grieve is to make sure you’re practising self-care. Not showering, cleaning your home and choosing to not leave your house are all symptoms of depression. It’s important to continue taking care of yourself, especially during difficult times like now. You can even incorporate self relieving activities like walking in nature, reading a book or taking a bath. So try to be consistent with taking care of yourself. Your body and mind will appreciate it in the long run. If you think you may need help, speaking to someone you trust or a professional can be beneficial.
During periods of grief and intense loss, we can without a doubt benefit from the help of a trained professional. What prevents people from accessing professional help is typically the feelings of shame and the stigma surrounding seeking help. Rember, there is nothing shameful about reaching out for help. These services are there to help, and make a fundamental impact in helping people manage and improve their emotions and trauma. When searching for a therapist who’s a good fit for you, look for a psychotherapist who’s experienced in pet loss.
We naturally gravitate towards others who have shared similar life experiences to us. Sharing lived experiences has also been recognised professionally as being an important part of mental health treatment and recovery. After losing a pet, it may help if you spend more time with friends or family members who have also lost a pet. Around these people, you realise you're not the only one who has felt this and feel a sense of acceptance and a level of authentic empathy.
When a pet passes, it’s normal to feel racked by grief and loss. In fact, it would be a little abnormal if we didn’t bat an eyelid. Like the other losses we’ve encountered through life, pet bereavement will lessen and get easier over time. The most important thing to remember is there are coping mechanisms to help you along the way. Taking care of yourself physically and emotionally, seeking a professional therapist and surrounding yourself with people who have experienced the same are just some of the things we can do while we heal.
If you’ve recently lost a pet and are wanting to commemorate their life, Patch and Purr are here to make the process of your pet's aftercare as easy as possible. We provide various pet aftercare options, so you can be assured there is something to suit you and your families memorial preferences.
The information contained in this article is general in nature and does not take into account your personal situation. You should consider whether the information is appropriate to your needs, and where appropriate, seek professional advice.
Patch & Purr offers pet cremations for when your loved one is no longer by your side, but forever in your heart.
We strive to treat your loyal friend with the care and respect they deserve at every step of the way. Call us 24/7 on 1300 112 711 or use the contact form below to speak to a Patch & Purr team member.